To avoid the confrontation that happens in daily communication, focus on helping other people get what they want in every conversation by first understanding their point of view around every situation. Rather than shut down people’s listening, these 16 questions are intended to expand the creation new possibilities so that everyone can win.
There may be times when someone holds certain perceptions or beliefs about your product, service, industry, performance or processes that may be inaccurate. Or, maybe you need to enroll people in an alternative solution, a new way of looking at a situation or a different way of thinking. When this occurs, and you’re running into resistance from the other side when trying to create buy in or you are hearing conflicting opinions which you do not agree with, you may react by telling the person they’re wrong. Or, you attempt to fill in the conversation with statistical data, evidence or proof that supports and defends your point of view in order to convince them to agree with you.
Lets face it, when someone is told they’re wrong or their belief is in conflict with the position you’ve taken, they either shut down and stop listening or come out fighting in an attempt to defend their stand. Once this happens, a confrontational atmosphere is created between you and the person you are speaking with. When you invalidate someone’s viewpoint, they become further entrenched in their case and are less willing to budge or move off of their platform.
Rather than react to their remark, demonstrate your interest in understanding what motivates their thinking and reasoning in the first place. Become interested in gaining a greater awareness around where they are coming from and seize this opportunity to validate and connect with some aspect of their feelings and thinking. Saying things like, “I appreciate how you feel” or “I understand your feelings/position on that” lets the other person know that you are sincerely trying to understand and respect their view and what they had said, rather than dismiss it. This demonstrates a willingness on your end to smooth out the playing field, continue the conversation and find a common ground and solution, without becoming argumentative and defensive.
To avoid confrontation, detach from your agenda and outcome for a moment and instead, respond to a person’s statements or comments with a question that directs the conversation toward creating a new opportunity, belief or solution. Questions allow you to correct someone gracefully or explore a new possibility without having an emotional reaction, dismissing their opinion and feelings or telling them they’re wrong.
We often forget that, while we may all hold conflicting viewpoints, you are still ultimately working towards one collective goal, objective and vision within the organization. We need to continually be mindful of our shared goals and keep this in front of our line of vision. This approach enables you to do so, while acknowledging and respecting each other’s differences. You’ll also find out that you have more in common than you had originally thought.
Questions That Gracefully Correct Someone and Foster Effective Collaboration
Drive these types of conversations with well crafted, neutrally charged questions that are not loaded, manipulative, adversarial or have a hidden agenda attached to them. The byproduct will be healthier collaboration that ultimately gives you what you want with less effort. These questions will also help foster a deeper level of buy in and the mutual alignment of goals that you need in order to ensure that together, you generate worthwhile results over the long term. The following questions will enable you to create new opportunities that you would not have noticed before and uncover innovative ideas that are otherwise left unexplored.
- What else do you feel might be possible? What else could be true?
- Can you please share with me your thinking on that? What does that (solution, approach, problem, etc.) look like for you? What does that look like through your eyes?
- May I share my view on that? Are you open to hearing another point of view on that?
- Is it possible that there may be another approach/solution here? Is there a different way we can look at this?
- Is it possible that there may be more/other facts to consider?
- How can I best assist you around achieving what you want most?
- When did you decide that was true?
- That’s interesting. Can you share with me why you feel/see it that way?
- What else is true about that? Is that the truth or is it something else?
- I’m not too sure what you mean. Can you say more about that?
- How do you mean when you say (better results, well trained, not qualified, not professional, unmotivated, poor service, etc.)? What does (success, persistent, organized, responsive, more responsibility, a qualified selling opportunity, overwhelmed, etc.) mean to you/look like to you?
- I hear that you’re saying this can’t be done this way but what if it could be done? What would that mean to you?
- What would be possible if…..?
- What result are you looking to achieve here?
- What is most important to you?
- What’s the common ground that we share? What’s the common objective that you see here? What do you feel we are in agreement around?
Photo Credit: Keith Nerdin